Mehrangarh Fort holds the pride of place in Aapno Jodhpur because of its splendid architecture and the diverse history associated with it. Burnished red sandstone, imposing, invincible and yet with a strange haunting beauty that beckons, is one of the largest, formidable and magnificent forts in India.
There is no exaggeration in Rudyard Kipling, an English journalist calling the fort as “A Palace that might have been built by Titans (giants) and colored by the morning sun”. Today, it is acknowledged as one of the best preserved forts in India.
Fort was built around 1460 by Rao Jodha, the fort is situated 410 feet (125 m) above the city and can be seen from almost any vantage point in Jodhpur. Inside its thick walls boundaries, there are several palaces known for their intricate carvings and expansive courtyards – the ornate red sandstone carvings of Shringar chowk, the gallery of paintings, ornate palanquins in the Daulat Khana, intricate mirror work in the Sheesh Mahal, the exquisite gold paintings of Phool Mahal, the lavish interiors of Takhat Niwas, the Jharokhas of Jhanki Mahal and the Brahminic blue houses surrounding the fort. The imprints of the impact of cannonballs fired by attacking armies can still be seen.
There are also two temples located inside the fort – Chamundi Devi Mandir and Nagnechiaji Mandir, dedicated to Goddess Durga and the Kuldevi respectively. The Nagnecha Mataji was Rao Jodha’s favorite goddess, he brought her idol from the old capital of Mandore in 1460 and installed her in Mehrangarh Fort.
Much has been written about the Citadel of the Sun, for truly, it is one of the most impressive in all Rajasthan, but there are some history and legends that are not very well known. I would like to share all this a pass and present you some very interesting and relatively unknown facts about the Mehrangarh Fort which would arouse your curiosity.
History of Mehrangarh Fort
Rao Jodha, the chief of the Rathore clan, founded Jodhpur in 1459 (Jodhpur was previously known as Marwar). One year after his accession to the throne, Jodha decided to move his capital to the safer location of Jodhpur, as the one thousand years old Mandore Fort was no longer considered to provide sufficient security.
With the help of Rao Nara, the foundation of the fort was laid on 12 May 1459 by Rao Jodha on a rocky hill 9 kilometers (5.6 mi) to the south of Mandore.
The Legend of a Curse
This hill was known as Bhaurcheeria, the mountain of birds. According to legend to build the fort he had to displace the hill’s sole human occupant, a hermit called Cheeria Nathji, the lord of birds.
Upset at being forced to move Cheeria Nathji cursed Rao Jodha with “Jodha! May your citadel ever suffer a scarcity of water!”. Rao Jodha managed to appease the hermit by building a house and a temple in the fort very near the cave the hermit had used for meditation. Jodha then took an extreme measure to ensure that the new site proved propitious; he buried a man called “Rajaram Meghwal (Rajiya Bambi)” alive in the foundations. The extent of the curse is that even today the area is plagued by a drought every 3 to 4 years.
“Rajaram Meghwal” was promised that in return his family would be looked after by the Rathores. To this day his descendants still live in Raj Bagh, “Raja Ram Meghwal’s Garden”, an estate bequeathed them by Jodha.
Why Mehrangarh Fort always remains in hand of Rathore?
Rao Jodha then invited the famous female Hindu warrior sage of Charan caste, Shri Karni Mata, to lay down the foundation stone of the Mehrangarh Fort and the same was carried out by her. Today only the forts of Bikaner and Jodhpur remain in the hands of Rathores, both had their foundation stone laid by Shri Karni Mata. All other Rajput forts of Rajasthan were abandoned for some or the other reasons by the respective clans.
Only the Rathors of Jodhpur and Bikaner have their forts with them till date. This fact is considered a miracle by the local population and is attributed to Shri Karni Mata.
How Mehrangarh Fort so named?
According to Rajasthani language pronunciation conventions, ‘Mihirgarh‘ has changed to ‘Mehrangarh‘. Mehr meaning Sun and Garh meaning Fort. Mehrangarh fort- the citadel of sun god derives its name from Mehr-Garh. The Sun-deity has been the chief deity of the Rathore dynasty.
Fort Stands on The Special land
The Mehrangarh Fort is built on a Malani Igneous Suite Contact which represents the last phase of igneous activity of the Precambrian age in the Indian subcontinent. This unique feature has been declared a National Geological Monument by the Geological Survey of India (GSI). This unique geological feature is part of the Malani Igenus Suite seen in the Thar desert region, spread over an area of 43,500 km2
Ancient Volcanic Rock
Towards the leeward side of the Bakhurcheeria hill is the Rao Jodha Desert Park consisting of the ecologically restored vegetation of arid and desert land spread over 72 hectares. The area surrounding the desert park encompasses many volcanic rocks and sandstone formations from about 600 million years ago.
Built over 500 years
Though the fortress was originally constructed in mid 15th century by Rao Jodha, the founder of Jodhpur, it was expanded with many palaces and structures by his descendants across 500 years. Most of the fort which stands today dates back to the 17th century and was built by Maharaja Ajit Singh and Jaswant Singh of Marwar (1638–78).
Beauty of the Cliff
The fort is located in the centre of the city spreading over 5 kilometers (3.1 mi) on top of a high hill. Its walls, which are up to 36 metres (118 ft) high and 21 metres (69 ft) wide, protect some of the most beautiful and historic palaces in Rajasthan. Entry to the fort is gained through a series of seven gates, made by different rulers in honor of victory over Bikaner and Jaipur armies. The most famous of the gates are:
▪ Jai Pol (“Gate of Victory”), built by Maharaja Man Singh in 1806 to celebrate his victory in a war with Jaipur and Bikaner.
▪ Fateh Pol, built to celebrate a victory over the Mughals in 1707;
▪ Dedh Kamgra Pol, which still bears the scars of bombardment by cannonballs;
▪ Loha Pol, which is the final gate into the main part of the fort complex. Immediately to the left are the handprints (Sati marks) of the Ranis who in 1843 immolated themselves on the funeral pyre of their husband, Maharaja Man Singh.
Within the fort are several brilliantly crafted and decorated palaces. These include Moti Mahal (Pearl Palace), Phool Mahal (Flower Palace), Sheesh Mahal (Mirror Palace), Sileh Khana and Daulat Khana. The museum houses a collection of palanquins, howdahs, royal cradles, miniatures, musical instruments, costumes, and furniture.
One thing that sets apart Mehrangarh Fort from the rest of the forts is its patronage for folk art and traditions. Cultural and Folk performances are arranged every day in the different courtyard of the fort. The current head of the Rathore clan and custodian of the fort, Maharaja Gaj Singh II, has preserved the buildings and developed the museum as a record of the lives of his predecessors. His ancestors ruled the state of Marwar and over many generations built this architectural treasure, and it falls to him to ensure that their legacy is maintained and understood.
To believe it, you need to visit it.